The Lake Superior School District may increase to five class days per week and cancel its scheduled Spring Break as students move to distance learning because of the COVID-19 outbreak.

Right now the district operates on a four-day week due in part to increased transportation costs. Superintendent Bill Crandall said officials are considering moving to a five-day week.

"Everyone's already at home," he said. "Nobody's going anywhere for a while, so we could have more educational time and reduce the weeks we're in school."

Furthermore, Crandall said he will ask the school board to cancel the district's Spring Break, as "no one is planning to travel for a vacation right now." The break is scheduled for the week after students begin distance learning.

The school board didn't act on the proposed calendar changes this week, but they may take it up at the next meeting.

Educators have been busily preparing for the shift to distance learning, which begins Monday, March 30, Crandall said. The details for each class and grade will be available at the district website, isd381.k12.mn.us, starting Friday, March 27.

"Right now teachers have been looking at models for communicating and doing lessons via Google and a program called ClassDojo," Crandall said. "They've done some testing to make sure it works, but it's going to be a learning experience for all of us."

With the distance learning model, students will utilize technology to submit assignments and connect with their teachers, both as a classroom and on a one-on-one basis during teacher office hours. For families who don't have internet access available at home or who lack appropriate technology, the district is providing Chromebooks and/or Verizon mobile hotspots.

"These devices will still have district firewalls, and it will only provide enough data to get classwork done," Crandall said. "So we won't have students streaming Netflix or anything like that."

Another part of the shift includes a possible change in the educational week.

Lastly, Crandall said the schools are slightly changing the school lunch provision program. Since schools closed on March 18, the district has been providing a grab-and-go breakfast, snack and lunch pack for those who rely on the school for food support. The district received approval from the state to open up to any student age 18 or under, similar to a summer food program, he said.

The grab-and-go system will remain in place, and the district is pushing to provide more pick-up locations for easier access. Starting Monday, March 30, staff will set up meal collection sites in Finland, Brimson, Beaver Bay, Knife River and Duluth Township in addition to the schools. The sites will remain open for two hours.

"So far, with everything that’s going on, I commend our kitchen staff, para staff, transportation staff. It’s been going fairly smoothly over the last week and a half with the food program," Crandall said.

As for district sports, it remains to be seen whether or not the Minnesota State High School League will reinstate any spring sports.

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